SEPTEMBER 3, 2014 By Gabriel Benjamin
No sooner news of Miatta Kargbo’s dismissal as Minster of Health and Sanitation and subsequent recall to State House to serve in the Strategy and Policy Unit “until further notice” filtered into the air than scores of Sierra Leoneans took to the social media, expressing their feelings, opinions, sentiments and reservations about the decision.
Although the axing and subsequent redeployment of Miatta Kargbo was long overdue, it became an instant topic for discussion among Sierra Leoneans from all walks of life – both in and out of the country. The news about her sacking and subsequent redeployment was re-shared over 170 times (from Friday August 29 to Monday September 1); it was seen by over 170,520 people; and it generated over 1,600 comments. The comments were diverse. Some praised her, others mocked her, and a vast majority of commentators lampooned the government for a belated action, while quite a few were indifferent.
Journalist Elkass I.L. Sannoh wrote: “PRESIDENT KOROMA WHY ACT NOW? Why do we need to say Kudos to President Koroma for acting now? This has always been the call and demand from the citizens. Although it is too late, it is better…late than never. The decision is action oriented and one in the right direction. President Koroma’s government failed to promptly salvage the Ebola crisis because President Koroma attributed himself with failure, i.e. a failed Minister of Health and Sanitation. We were…expecting President Koroma to sack Miatta Kargbo instead of recalling her to State House to perform another failed duty. Is Miatta Kargbo untouchable or President Koroma has no fist to act as expected? Na true say de Pa don tire ba?”
The sentiments expressed by Sannoh were followed by comments from another Sierra Leonean, Sheku Bayoh, who questioned: “Is now the right time [to sack the minister] considering the spread [of the Ebola virus]? How long the transitioning, orientation of the new guy and the start his influence is going to take? Who is going to be steering affairs during the transitioning? What about the government information machine that diverted quality time in bashing one of their own for sounding the right alarm? Where was President Koroma in March through May? The buck should not stop with Miatta. It should go all the way…”
Francis Garrick remarked: “Why did it take this long? You guys are toying with people’s lives. Do you know how many lives would have been saved from this killer virus had there been a competent leadership in the Health Ministry?” While Santigie Kamara raged: “President Koroma is beating a dead horse even though the old adage says ‘better late than never’. Miatta Kargbo should have been shown the exit door long before now due to her limited knowledge in health related issues.”
Another commentator Joe Roberts said: “Miatta Kargbo in so many instances proved that she was grossly incompetent to head the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. I can’t understand why it took this long for President Koroma to relieve her of her duty. She is now being comforted with a new position at State House. What strategic direction will she provide for our country? She should be held accountable for her timid actions whilst heading the Ministry of Health and Sanitation during this Ebola Virus Disease crisis.”
Theodosia Ellis Bultman Edwards, from the Diaspora, expressed his indifference towards the redeployment of Miatta Kargbo: “I have received a number of messages in response to Miatta Kargbo’s removal, let me make this quite clear: I will never rejoice in the personal misfortunes of others. I hate to see anyone lose their jobs, but in the grand scheme of things, Miatta Kargbo’s removal was way overdue. I celebrate her audacity of hope, and I know her heart was initially in the right place. However, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation appointment was too much for her. The Ebola outbreak got her overwhelmed. Her continued presence at the helm of affairs created more obstacles that resulted in the deaths of many people. I wish Dr. Fofanah well in his new position, and I’ll do my best to support the Ebola initiatives. I wish Miatta success in her venture. I pray we begin to see a quick turnaround, and for our folks back home to live in health and peace.”
Edward Adikalie had a contrary view to the minister’s dismissal: “The sacking of Miatta Kargbo still does not count for a solution to the problem.” He said: “The minister has been very energetic in handling the health issues in the country before and during the Ebola outbreak. She is just a victim of the situation and hateful propaganda. People just don’t want to see young people handle big matters. Again I am happy that she is moving out without partaking in the squandering of the EBOLA funds. We will see in the end whose hands will be stained in guilt. Miatta will certainly bounce back to another height. While she was presidential adviser on health affairs at State House, I already knew she was headed for a very envious ministerial position.” He concluded by saying: “We are going to start from ground zero. I am sure it will take another couple of weeks before the new minister settles. EBK better not be mistaken with this move.”
For Christopher Kargbo, he had this to say: “Now Miatta Kargbo is a monster. When will Sierra Leoneans learn to be honest and be grateful? This woman did what she can with all her effort before and after the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak. Why vilifying her now? Why can’t we hold the people responsible who allowed Tulane University to carry out Ebola research in our country that brings about this man-made disaster on our people? Why are we so blind to see the truth and say it out so the world will know how much our politicians have sold the lives of our people for few dollars to the Americans?”
The Deputy Director of Communications at State House, Jarrah Kawusu-Konte, posted on his Facebook page: “Ebola doesn’t need to hit home for anyone to realize that it is a deadly disease.” He noted further: “The point is, the government response has never been questioned by international experts in outbreaks of this nature. As a matter of fact, it is a new experience and therefore needs the professional support of those with the right expertise and experience to respond adequately to the outbreak.”
The concern of Chernor Ahmed Bangura was that: “Do you change the captain while the ship is on course? Yes it is the president’s prerogative, but this can hardly bring positive impact in the fight against the Ebola outbreak. Rather, a change of leadership at this point in time will only delay government’s effort to control the spread of the virus because the new minister requires time to come to speed with what the previous minister was doing policy wise and practically around the country.”
Others who praised President Koroma for his decision are the Special Executive Assistant to the President, Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, who in a comment on her Facebook page said: “I see many concerns have been raised as to why the President chose Miatta Kargbo over Dr. Fofanah in the first place when he appointed them in January 2013 as his Cabinet Health Minister and Deputy Health Minister respectively. About why Miatta Kargbo was made minister above Dr. Fofanah, well, the President had vowed to empower women and young people and she fitted the bill BUT MOST OF ALL, unlike Dr. Fofanah, at that time (January 2013), as the then Adviser on Health at State House, she was well tuned into the political and administrative governance structures of the Health Ministry unlike Fofanah who was by then, coming in only with professional field experience. Today, after 20 months in health governance, Fofanah is now well experienced in both medical and governance issues.”
Barrie Alhaji commented: “Positive step Mr. President. This was what the people of Sierra Leone were expecting from your leadership in this fight to kick the dreadful Ebola Virus Disease out of our beloved country Sierra Leone. May GOD help us.”
For Abdul-Bendu Kargbo, he remarked: “Thank you Mr. President for answering the call of your citizens at the right time.”
For Miatta Kargbo who was appointed Minister of Health and Sanitation in January, 2013, her story may just be unfolding as Sierra Leone continues to grapple with containing the escalating trend of the world’s most dreaded disease despite the billions of Leones being contributed both locally and international to fight the scourge.
Perhaps as Miatta Kargbo’s voyage ended abruptly in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, a heroine’s welcome awaits her as she relocates to State House to continue her work in the Strategy and Policy Unit (SPU), where she was serving as Special Adviser to the President on Health Policy matters before her appointment to the Health Ministry.
Only time will tell!